J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Changeling) has a special place in his heart for Comic-Con. It's not just an opportunity for JMS to connect with fans of his work in TV, movies and comics "” it helped him succeed as a writer, as he explains in this exclusive guest post, written for the Amazon Studios Hollywonk blog:
What's so special about San Diego Comic-Con? I hear you ask. Yes, that's right, you, seated in the last row where you thought I wouldn't notice or call on you. Sit up straight, stop fiddling with your papers and pay attention, because I'm not going to repeat this.
I lived in San Diego from 1974 through 1981, when I made the long trek up to Los Angeles to pursue my writing career in venues a bit broader than were locally available at that time. Despite being a massive comics fan, I was only able to attend SDCC a few times during those years because ... well, frankly, I couldn't afford it. The con wasn't unduly expensive, in fact by most measures it was quite a bargain, but at the time every penny I earned as a writer, and there were very few of them, went into buying writing supplies instead of luxuries like convention tickets or food. Which is why despite being 6'3" I weighed only about 145 pounds. I was determined to make it as a writer or die trying.
Whenever I could scrape up enough cash to buy a ticket to SDCC, I did so, even if it meant not eating for a while. It was that important. Why?
There is a vast difference between a convention like SDCC and most of the for-profit conventions that are run more by businessmen than by fans. In the case of the latter, there is the audience and there are the participants "” the speakers, panelists and special guests "” and rarely is there the opportunity for one to become the other.
But that transition, from audience to participant, from fan to professional, is what fan-run conventions are all about. Despite its staggering size and complexity, San Diego Comic Con is the Mount Everest of fan-run conventions. In the course of its history, it has become a Mecca for those who love the visual arts and want to do more than just look on passively.
As a college student, on the few occasions when I had enough cash to buy a ticket to SDCC, I was able to see folks like Harlan Ellison, and Robert Bloch, and Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury and dozens of other leading professional writers talking about the craft of writing. I often learned more about writing in one hour-long panel hosting luminaries of that level than I'd learned in two years of college work. And then there were all the editors and publishers and agents who came to talk about their part of the business, what they looked for in new and aspiring writers, and what it took to break through the background noise and be noticed by those empowered to purchase your work.
And further down the hall, in the dealers' and exhibits room, you could find publishers from DC Comics, Marvel and other publishers who would actually take the time to review art by novice illustrators or talk nascent writers through the process of improving your dialogue or breaking down a plot for a comic book.
For as much as the event was about comic book companies and others showcasing their wares, it was also about bringing up the next generation of writers and artists, about the transition from here to there, from fan to professional.
And here's the amazing, the stunning, the delicious part of it all.
It's still about that!
There is a supportive and positive tide that runs through the core of San Diego Comic Con that crests in the panel rooms and sweeps people up from their seats and deposits them behind the dais where they encourage the next group to hold on as the tidal surge now starts to come their way. It is as regular as clockwork, as powerful as an earthquake and as intimate as the quiet turning of your considered conscience.
It is a celebration, a passing of the torch, a reunion of glorious madmen and women, a parrot-pretty parade of costumes, a top-flight university in the visual and creative arts...and every year it is my favorite place in the world to visit. Because in the final analysis, the whole thing is about hope.
Read the full post at the Amazon Studios Hollywonk blog.